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Linux defense group invests in mobile ID security

Aug 17, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

Linux patent defense organization Open Invention Network (OIN) announced a partnership with Arizona State University's Arizona Technology Enterprises (AzTE) office, focused on mobile device identity management research. As part of the agreement, OIN acquired key intellectual property from AzTE aimed at providing “intellectual property for defensive purposes” for open source software on mobile devices, says OIN.

As part of the agreement, OIN is sponsoring the research of Arizona State University (ASU) professor Gail-Joon Ahn, who works at the Computer Science and Engineering department at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Ahn is also said to be director of the Laboratory of Security Engineering for Future Computing (SEFCOM). 

The research addresses the problem of the lack of a "usable and effective method for handling user credentials," stated Ahn (pictured). The technology under development is said to solve security issues such as identity theft, fraud, and privacy concerns related to mobile computing devices.

No other details were offered, but the SEFCOM website lists its research interests as including identity management and access control, formal models for computer security, and network and distributed systems security, including mobile and cloud computing. The research group is also said to work on issues related to vulnerability and risk assessment, as well as cyber-crime analysis.

OIN will coordinate with Ahn and his team via AzTE, the official technology transfer office of ASU, says OIN.

OIN and the Linux Defenders

OIN was established as a defensive patent management organization by IBM, Sony, Philips, Novell, and Red Hat back in 2005. It has since been joined by NEC, and also receives financial contributions from Canonical (Ubuntu), says the group.

The company acquires patents from universities and other sources and licenses them royalty-free to companies, universities, and other organizations that agree not to enforce their own patents against Linux and "certain Linux-related applications," says OIN. The group often works with universities on technology and patent acquisitions, funded research, and defensive publication programs, says the group.

CEO Bergelt was an outspoken critic of Microsoft's lawsuit against TomTom last year over the use of the FAT file-system in embedded Linux products. TomTom subsequently settled with Microsoft, but OIN's Linux Defenders program then posted three of the eight patents cited in Microsoft's lawsuit for prior art review by the Linux community, hoping to convince the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) to invalidate them.

In Sept. 2009, OIN and its Linux Defenders program (logo shown at right) acquired 22 Linux-focused patents that had previously been owned by Microsoft. OIN purchased the 3D graphics-related patents from Allied Security Trust in an effort to protect them from "patent trolls" intending to assert them against Linux firms.

Co-sponsored by the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) and the Linux Foundation (LF), OIN's Linux Defenders program was launched in December 2008 with the primary goal of making prior art more readily accessible to patent and trademark office examiners via defensive publications, says OIN. Endorsed by the USPTO, defensive publications are said to provide a form of preemptive disclosure that prevents other parties from obtaining a patent.

Stated OIN CEO Keith Bergelt, "Given the strength of ASU's research platform represented by AzTE, and the positive experience we have had in working with Dr. Ahn and AzTE in the past, OIN is pleased to sponsor this research through which we will support the continued advancement of open source solutions into mobile devices."

Stated AzTE Managing Director Augustine V. Cheng, "This agreement allows ASU to further develop this important technology."

Further information

More information on OIN may be found at their website, here. More on AzTE may be found at its site, here.

The SEFCOM website may be found here, and Professor Ahn's site may be found here.

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